MuggleNet and Me
Readers, our long communal nightmare is over. MuggleNet is back. Let us rejoice in the streets and throw books up in the air since we once again have an online place to call home.
In the weeks that we’ve been unable to visit MuggleNet – I was just as cut off as you were – maybe we’ve slowly begun to move on with our lives. But if we are kindred spirits, as I suspect, we are MuggleNet addicts happily relapsing right now.
Without anything to read on MuggleNet, I turned sentimental in these past weeks. I was already somewhat there: MuggleNet had been feeling nostalgic as of late with its year-by-year recaps of Harry Potter history and Amy Hogan’s highlight reel of MuggleNet’s most impressive moments. But now, I’ve learned to not take the things I love for granted.
If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to take you on a trip down memory lane and share with you my history with MuggleNet. I hope you will enjoy reading this, and I hope you will share your own story with this website in the comments. So here is my story as a MuggleNet addict, beginning with when I was a very humble teenage fanboy of “the mighty MuggleNet.”
I. Prologue: The 2000s
I discovered MuggleNet on June 20, 2003 – the day before Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out. The website was four years old, a rich and storied history to 11-year-old me. I spent all day going down the MuggleNet rabbit hole, reading all the editorials and the theories found on the site.
After that day, I visited MuggleNet daily and – with a few blips here and there – have continued to do so ever since. I feel confident in saying that I’ve read every single editorial posted on this website. Most little kids idolize musicians or athletes; my heroes were the columnists at MuggleNet. I wanted to be Daniela Teo, Lady Lupin, Maline Freden, Bob Sindeldecker, Brandon Ford, Christopher Stephen, Dan Hoppel, and Josh Smith when I grew up. I would print out the best editorials to pore over them again and again. Even if I met those editorialists today, I would probably fall over myself fanboying them.
I loved everything about MuggleNet. I vividly recall the LeakyMug April Fools’ when I spent half the day refreshing the page, laughing hysterically and wondering whether it was real or not. (That was the very last time I even slightly believed any of MuggleNet’s April Fools’ pranks.) I eagerly read What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7? I once emailed Emerson Spartz a question about Jo Rowling’s website and nearly fell out of my chair when he wrote back.
Eventually, I decided to take a stab at writing myself. The first few attempts were excruciating, as any writer’s first attempt at anything must be. But in 2007, just about a month before the final book came out, I finally submitted something deemed good enough to publish: “Harry Potter and the Seven Chakras.” It was pretty much the coolest thing to ever happen to 15-year-old me.
After Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, the once-glorious editorial section quieted down. I wrote a second piece that was deemed worthy of publication in 2008, and this one was a doozy: “Ron or Hermione? Harry’s Truest Friend.” Rebuttals were written, and on the Chamber of Secrets forums, pages and pages of debates raged. It was terrific.
II. Ten Years Ago: 2009
2009 was a very big year for MuggleNet and me for several reasons. It’s mind-boggling that this was all a decade ago since these moments still feel fresh to me.
2009 was the year I truly joined the real-life Harry Potter fandom, and that complemented my MuggleNet fandom quite well. (Though I was genuinely shocked to find there were hardcore Harry Potter fans who didn’t visit MuggleNet every day… What did they even do on the Internet? Hang out on Myspace the whole time?)
Among our adventures, we walked into the Times Square subway station one night, and it was bedecked in posters for the sixth movie. Naturally, the digital cameras came out, and we took dozens of photos to share with the world. Knowing my duty as a Potter fan, I sent in a tip to MuggleNet with a link to my Flickr gallery so that everyone could see all the ads. The next day, I was convinced my life had peaked: There was a thumbnail of me on the front page. I called and texted everyone I’d ever spoken to – including people who’d not even read Harry Potter – to tell them that I was on MuggleNet’s front page. It was the highest honor I could imagine.
I squeed over every single comment, although this one was my favorite:
Wow, that is too cool, although Im [sic] kinda worried for the people kissing the posters, they cant [sic] be clean? (that is the posters cant be clean- not the people) :P” – Posted by DarkMark_5
The same month, MuggleNet published the book Harry Potter Should Have Died. I ran to the Barnes & Noble by my high school to get a copy on release day, confounded by the absence of long lines of people waiting to read the book. The next month, MuggleCast came to town for the joint occasion of the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince premiere and Emerson and Ben promoting Harry Potter Should Have Died. Having been too young to engage with much of the real-life Potter fun for previous releases, I was 17 now and could move heaven and earth to actually attend.
I distinctly remember asking all of them to sign my copy of Harry Potter Should Have Died. Micah was very confused and protested that he had nothing to do with the book, but I wanted his signature anyway because he worked for MuggleNet.
Basically, after the summer of ’09, I had achieved as much as I thought a MuggleNet fanboy could achieve. And though I squeed at the thought of meeting the MuggleNet staff or being on the front page, it all came back to the editorials for me. The columnists whom I’d worshipped had all moved on after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and the editorial section lay fallow. I kept submitting articles, and a few more were published.
III. From Fanboy to Writer: The 2010s
On September 8, 2011, at 7:25 p.m., I received an email that made all my dreams come true. The subject line was “I have a proposition for you,” and it was a short missive from Noah Fried, offering me my own space within the editorials section.
To be perfectly frank with you, I lost my shit. (And look how we’ve grown – I would’ve never been allowed to write that word eight years ago.) I agonized over how many exclamation points would be unseemly in response and settled on including five. And if you’re impressed with the level of detail recalled here, I have those emails saved in my inbox to this day.
Writing for MuggleNet as a columnist was pretty much all I’d ever wanted, and I never fully lost that initial awe of joining the rarefied ranks of my childhood heroes. By the time I became a columnist, I was the only one – all the others had retired. But even though they were gone, I always thought of them and always tried to hold myself to the very high standard they set. Even during the brief period when the website veered a little too close to BuzzFeed, I cited all my quotes and wrote for the reader I’d been as a teen: someone who knew the books backward and forward and wanted to read 4,000-word treatises on obscure themes.
It took a little time to get in the groove of things. Noah, quite brilliantly, branded me MuggleNet’s “controversial columnist,” a label I enthusiastically leaned into. But I had to learn the hard way not to engage with trolls. To this day, Noah and I affectionately reminisce about those days as mostly “putting out fires” that I lit. (And I’m still not above throwing the occasional lit match around here.)
Once I’d got the first few bombastic articles out of my system, I began diving deeper into the books and espousing complex theories rather than just controversial opinions. I found myself writing more and more about Dumbledore, a path that took me to become a published author last year with The Life and Lies of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.
That amazing, AMAZING thing would never have happened were it not for my career at MuggleNet. But I never felt that my MuggleNet column was ever a stepping stone to bigger and better things. For me, the column was the bigger and better thing. That is why I’ll be writing here years from now, as long as anyone is willing to read it.
IV. Now: 2019
Though it took a long time to realize Noah’s vision of a revitalized editorial section, we got there in the end. My favorite thing about the heyday of the columnist model was the engagement among the columnists: They would build on or rebut each other’s pieces with the assumption that the readers were keeping up with all the latest theorizing, and the readers rose to the occasion.
We now have a stable of writers to rival any website, a diverse array of styles and subjects that should prove compelling to any hardcore Harry Potter fan. With Beyond the Veil, Madison Ford writes powerful pieces about the emotional resonance of our shared text. With The Wizard’s Voice, Victor Chan gently and patiently addresses the fandom’s controversies in between insightful analysis of the wizarding world. And new on the block, Sophia Jenkins comes up with thought-provoking theories that never fail to intrigue and astonish. I tip my pointy wizard hat to my fellow writers and stand proudly alongside them.
Becoming a columnist for MuggleNet was a childhood dream of mine, and it came true. Something that was not even on my radar, however, was becoming a podcaster. Yet that’s what happened in 2019: The brilliant folks over at Alohomora! invited me to join their ranks. (That’s why my editorial output has slightly slowed down; I’m discussing Harry Potter for hours every other week now.) Being on this podcast has been the most unexpected joy for me in the last half year. For any readers who aren’t listening, I truly think you’d love this podcast.
The podcast, the editorials, and MuggleNet at large are an incredible community: From the inside looking out, we may not even realize how extraordinary it is. Fansites are gasping for air going into 2020, supplanted by social media, drowning in an Internet where people would rather respond angrily to headlines than read or listen to in-depth analysis. But MuggleNet is an oasis among all that where like-minded fans can still engage meaningfully with the wizarding world and each other. That’s a huge testament to both MuggleNet’s leadership and its readership.
V. A Decade’s Difference
So that’s been my story. Writing it all out like this, it really presents an astonishing picture. Eight years since Noah’s fateful email, “MuggleNet columnist” is an essential part of my identity. And what a difference a decade makes…
Ten years ago, I had managed to get a handful of editorials published on my favorite fansite. Today, I am the longest-tenured columnist in MuggleNet history with over 70 editorials to my name.
Ten years ago, I was begging the MuggleCast hosts for autographs. Today, I am a podcast host, still trying to wrap my mind around thousands of people listening to my voice every other week.
Ten years ago, I thought getting onto the front page of MuggleNet was the coolest thing to ever happen. Today, I recently hung out in the backroom of the Hard Rock Café with MuggleNet staff members at its “Into the Pensieve” party.
It has been a long and unexpected journey for me with MuggleNet. But some things remain constant. I still visit MuggleNet every day, the way I have for 16 years. For me, the thrill of being a part of the World’s #1 Harry Potter Fansite (now the #1 Wizarding Resource Since 1999) has never worn off. And I am so unbelievably happy to be back.
So here at The Three Broomsticks, we lift our butterbeers to honor MuggleNet’s triumphant return. And I look forward to reading your stories in the comments below.